H.H. Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I
The Supreme Head of the
Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
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KNAI THOMA (MAR THOMA) AND THE MIGRATION
Twenty years after the Nicean Council (synod), Knai Thoma, a rich international merchant
from Cana, brought a colony of 400 Syrian Christians consisting of 72 families belonging to 7 clans with instructions from
the Patriarch of Antioch, Mor Yusthedius, to the Malabar coast of India. The group included men, women, children, priests,
deacons and their bishop Mor Joseph of Urfa (Uraha/Edessa). The names of the seven clans were: Bagi, Belkuth, Hadai, Kujalig,
Koja, Mugmuth, and Thegmuth. The legend is that Mor Joseph had a startling dream (vision) in which he saw the plight of the
Christian church in Malabar established by St. Thomas, the Apostle, in the 1st Century. Mor Joseph and Knai Thoma landed in
Kodungalloor (Crangannoore) in 345 AD. Knai Thoma and his group sailed in three ships. The leading ship called "Babylonia"
had three masts. The main mast flew King David's flag, the second mast flew the Roman flag with the cross, and the third
flew King Abgar of Edessa's flag.
Knai Thoma and his people were heartily welcomed by Cheraman Perumal, the Emperor.
Cheraman Perumal sent his brother, Ramavarma, and his minister, Vettathu Mannan, to receive Knai Thoma and his people. Knai
Thoma and his people were given permission to settle down in Kodungalloor and to do business. Later Cheraman Perumal bestowed
Knai Thoma and his people with 72 princely privileges and there by elevated them over 17 castes. This proclamation was made
on a Saturday in March (Kumbham 29), 345 and it was recorded on copper plates given to Knai Thoma (Knai Thomman Cheppedu).
Knai Thoma and his people built a town in Kodungalloor with a church and 72 houses. The natives called it "Mahadevar
Pattanam" meaning "town of superiors". Knai Thoma and his people converted many natives to Christianity and
built many churches. Thus the arrival of Knai Thoma and his people (Knananites) reestablished the church founded by St. Thomas,
Knanaya Arch Bishop H.G. Kuriakose Mor Severios
His Grace Mor Sevarios Kuriakose, ordained Metropolitan for the Knanaya diocese by
the Patriarch of Antioch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas on 15th January 2004, is the fourth Metropolitan of the Knanaya diocese
after its formation in 1910. The Consecration ceremony of the Metropolitan was at the St.Peter and St.Paul Cathedral in the
Monastery of St.Aphrem at Ma'arrat Seydnaya, Damascus, Syria. His Grace assumed the seat following the demise of the Chief
Metropolitan of the East, Mor Clemis Abraham, in September 2002 at the culmination of one of the longest reigns in Indian
Born into a family of priests on May 21, 1959, Mor Sevarios Kuriakose (Kuriakose Abraham) is the first
among seven children of Edavazhikkal Kunjavarachan and Mariamma of Kottayam. His Grace is the second Metropolitan from the
famous Edavazhikkal family; his predecessor being H.G. Gevargheese Mor Sevarios who is also the first Metropolitan of the
Knanaya Jacobite Syrian diocese. The well known Church historian E M Philip who was the secretary to Malankara Metropolitan
Pulikottil Joseph Mor Dionysius II, also belongs to the Edavazhikkal family.
A post-graduate in History and English,
he gained his degree in theology from Menooth University, Ireland, and PG in the same subject from Pourasthya Vidya Peeth,
Vadavathoor, Kottayam. It was on 4 February 1990, Kuriakose Abraham has been ordained Kassisso by the Chief Metropolitan of
the East (late) Mor Clemis Abraham, assisted by Metropolitans late Mor Theophilos Thomas (Outside Kerala diocese) and Mor
Osthatheos Benyamin Joseph (Simhasana Church). About a year after the demise of Mor Clemis Abraham, on 18th December 2003,
a special session of the Knanaya Association meeting was convened in the headquarters of the Church at Chingavanom to elect
a new Metropolitan for the congregation. The convention choose Fr.Kurikose Abraham (Edavazhikkal Achen) to head the Knanaya
community. On 12th January 2004 he was ordained Ramban (monk Priest) at the Patriarchal Cathedral church at Damascus by H.H
the Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and three days after, on 15th January, he was ordained Metropolitan .
Knanaya Auxiliary Bishop H.G Kuriakose Mor Gregorios
His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch Zakka Iwas I ordained V.Rev. C.T. Kurian Ramban
as the new Auxiliary Bishop for the Knanaya Diocese. His Grace will assume the name Kuriakose Mor Gregorios.
Ordination ceremonies took place today, Feb 2, 2007 in Damascus. Hundreds of Knanaya faithful from Kerala, USA, Middle East
and other parts of the world attended the enthronement ceremony. Knanaya Arch Bishop Mor Severios Kuriakose
along with several other bishops and dignitaries were also in attendance for this landmark ceremony. This is the first
time the Knanaya Diocese is getting an auxiliary bishop.
The late lamented Abraham Mor Clemis,
Chief Metropolitan of the East
Mor Clemis was born into the Vayala family in Ranni, on April 22, 1918 as the sixth
offspring of Mr. & Mrs. Idiculla Kochidiculla. His brother Vayala Idiculla was a well-known political leader and a freedom
fighter. Young Abraham’s liking was to be a politician, but God had other plans for him. Like Moses, when the Knanaya
people had no bishop for a long period of time, God called him to be their Shepherd.. Mor Clemis joined the church as a deacon
at a young age. A graduate in Theology and Political Sciences, Mor Clemis studied at Seminaries in Manjinikkara, Alwaye, Mosul,
Homs, and Union Theological Seminary in New York. Consecrated Knanaya Diocesan Bishop in 1951, Mor Clemis served that office
for 52 years. He was indeed a good shepherd and he tended his flock with diligence and faithfulness
During his initial
years as Bishop, Mor Clemis provided inspiration, and vision to a diocese that had been without a Bishop for the previous
20 years. With prayer, leadership and good counsel, Mor Clemis worked with the community leaders to organize itself. New churches,
convents, and retreat centers were established. Young men and women were actively recruited to membership in the clergy. The
Church constitution was amended and updated for effective administration of parishes and other institutions. Educational institutions
and an orphanage were established. Encouraged and initiated many charitable works such as giving away 1000 plus homes for
the financially challenged and establishing a widow fund for the financially deprived women.
Being blessed with great
administrative capability and political acumen, Mor Clemis also immersed himself with spiritual and temporal matters of the
larger Christian community in India and abroad. In recognition of his services and leadership, Mor Clemis was given important
responsibilities and honors
Mor Clemis established himself as the veritable leader of not only the Knanaya Community
but also of the Malankara Church. As a result he was elected as the Malankara Metropolitan in 1957. In 1982, recognizing his
leadership and wisdom, His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, decorated Mor Clemis with the highest honor
a bishop can receive, the title of “Kubernithi Hakimo” which means ‘Wise Captain.’. Again in1989 His
Holiness bestowed on Mor Clemis the position of “the Chief Metropolitan of the East” recognizing his continued
contributions to the whole Indian Christian Community. It is a position similar to that of the Catholicose.
Clemis made ecclesiastical visits to Ethiopia, Russia, the Middle East and many European countries. In 1956 the late Emperor
Haile Selasse of Ethiopia was the guest of honor of Mor Clemis. at Mar Ephraim Seminary, the headqurters of the Knanaya Diocese
in Chingavanam. Clemis Thirumeni was a key player in the Kerala politics. His political influence was so powerful that even
Mrs. Indira Gandhi went to his seminary in Chingavanam in 1970 to ask for his support as well as his advice. In 1997 none
other than the then Vice-President of India Mr. K.R. Narayanan inaugurated the bishop’s Jubilee celebrations. The Community
celebrated the Episcopal Jubilee of Mor Clemis on a grand scale in 2000 and His Holiness the Patriarch blessed the occasion
with his presence. Mor Clemis was warmly welcomed by the present Pope John Paul on two occasions in the company of His Holiness
the Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Zacha Iwas I. Mor Clemis was also a guest at the palace of the late President of Syria,
Hafez Al Asaad He was a member of the World Council of Churches and attended several of its meetings.
was a sage and a saint. He was a sage because he gave wise counsel not only to the religious community but also to many politicians
in Kerala who sought his counsel. He was a peace maker as well as a king maker. He mediated and settled many disputes between
the two factions of the Jacobite churches as well as helped ease tensions between Hindus and Christians at several occasions.
This he achieved by his strong belief in religious tolerance and Christian principles. Those political leaders who heeded
his advice did well in their political career.
Mor Clemis could also be called a saint because he showed qualities
of a saint such as concern for the betterment and wellbeing of the poor, fought against social injustice and political oppression.
He practiced chastity and poverty. He usually ate only vegetarian food and that too very moderately, just enough to survive
and not to indulge. He slept on a single bed with no mattress, but only a mat and a single sheet to cover his body. He had
big calluses on knuckles and on his knees due to prostration during his prayers at several times during the day and at night.
For an outsider his regal appearance and commanding presence gave the impression that was contrary to his inner nature of
an ascetic. According to the Orthodox Christian faith a saint is also one whose soul is gone to heaven. A few minutes before
his death, the bishop started a prayer with the people in the hospital and when he was praying the Lord’s prayer, he
breathed his last and entered into his heavenly rest at about 11pm on Sunday the 29 of September of 2002 at the ripe old age
Mor Severios Geevarghese (1851-1927)
of the Knanaya Diocese)
Mor Severios Geevarghese was the first Metropolitan
of the Knanaya diocese. He was born in 1851 to Kasiso Philipose of the Edavazhickal family, the vicar of Kottayam Valiyapally,
and Kunjachi. After his primary education Geevarghese prepared to become a priest. He was the 10th priest of the famous Edavazhickal
family that has produced many gifted men, most well known among whom is the Church historian E.M. Philip.
On 31st August
1910, Patriarch Mor Ignatius `Abded Aloho ordained Fr. Geevarghese Edavazhickal as the first Knanaya Bishop with the name
Mor Severios. Around that period, the reformation movement that was very active in Malankara rocked the Knanya Community also.
At Kottayam, Kallissery and Ranny many faithful of the Knanaya community along with some priests joined the new movement and
created a rift in the churches. At Kottayam Valiyapally this movement was strongly opposed by Rev. Fr. Philipose and his son.
Mor Severios administered the Knanaya diocese residing at Kottayam Valiyapalli. He believed in the value of education
and introduced several programs for the education of the Knanaya students. He founded mission centres at Chingavanam, Kallissery
and Kattodu. The construction of Chingavanam seminary began in his period. This was later to become the 'Mor Ephrem Seminary'
and the Knanaya Bishop's House.
Mor Severios was a source of love and selfless service to the community. An
educational fund he created and named after him is his great contribution to posterity. He served the community for seventeen
years during which many churches were formed in the diocese. He democratised the administration of the church. For this purpose
he called a meeting of the parish representatives and formed the Knanaya Association which is the parliament of Knanaya diocese.
"The Knanaya Association" rules were compiled in 1918 which later became the guideline for the present constitution
of the diocese.
Mor Severius passed away on June 11, 1927 and was laid to rest at the ancient Kottayam Valiya Pally.
Thomas Mor Dioskoros
(Second Metropolitan of the Knanaya
Thomas Mor Dioskoros Metropolitan was a pious and
dedicated Bishop of Knanaya diocese. Initially he assisted Mor Severiose Geevarghese Metropolitan and took over the administration
of the diocese at the demise of Mor Severious.His father belonged to the family of "Thervalady" the family of the knights
of thekkumkur royal family. His mother belonged to the famous Ottathycal family where his father resided, as there were no
male members there.
Mor Dioskoros led a life of simplicity
and piety. He was humorous and witty. In his administrative period the 'Patriarchal Bull No.42 was issued by "Patriarch
Elias III". The Bull proclaimed that Knanaya diocese shall always be directly under the holy throne of Antioch. It is
a significant document. The completion of Ephrem Seminary took place in his period. He provided leadership for the founding
ofVanitha Mandirum at Kurichy and M.S. High School at Ranny. It is quite unfortunate that he later converted himself to the
Roman Catholic fold . (source: “Cultural Heritage of Knanaya Syrian Christians” by Rev. Fr. Joseph Kulathramannil-p